Don Hansen

Junior College Transfers

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Twenty-five junior college players, over three recruiting classes, have signed with the Arizona State Sun Devils and Todd Graham since his arrival in December 2011. Prior to the Graham hiring, poor recruiting classes under Dennis Erickson (2010 and 2011) caused major holes in the roster. Until those classes flush through the system, the recruitment of experienced junior college players would be necessary to help fill the void. The two biggest junior college names from the 2014 Recruiting Class, Dalvon Stuckey and Darrius Caldwell, will not enroll at ASU and play for the Sun Devils. Stuckey and Caldwell were expected to step in immediately and replace defensive stars Will Sutton and Carl Bradford.

Due to the desire for immediate impact and results, junior college players often have higher expectations placed on them when signing. In theory, junior college players should fill an open hole on a BCS roster faster than a high school signee due to having two or three years of physical and mental development. Cam Newton, Sheldon Richardson, Bruce Irvin, Nick Fairley, and Cordarrelle Patterson were just a few junior college transfers who met and/or exceeded those expectations at the college level and vaulted themselves into the first round of the NFL Draft. However, highly touted junior college transfers falter at Division 1 schools as well.

Here are the 25 Arizona State signees out of junior colleges:

2012 (9): Alonzo Agwuenu, Marion Grice, Oliver Johnson, Steffon Martin, William McGehee, Mike Pennel, Darwin Rogers, Jake Sheffield, Chris Young

2013 (10): Demetrius Cherry, Eriquel Florence, Marcus Hardison, Nick Kelly, Antonio Longino, Soloman Means, Joe Morris, Damarious Randall, Jaelen Strong, De’Marieya Nelson

2014 (6): Edmond Boateng, Kweishi Brown, Darrius Caldwell, De’Chavon Hayes, Eric Lauderdale, Dalvon Stuckey

Along with Stuckey and Caldwell, Oliver Johnson, Mike Pennel, Alonzo Agwuenu and Joe Morris have to be determined as complete “misses”. Johnson and Morris never played a snap for the Sun Devils while Pennel played in five games during the 2012 season before departing the program due to differences with the coaching staff. Agwuenu, a wide receiver, arrived in Tempe with a high junior college ranking, and the wide receiver position was one of great need for the program. Yet, Agwuenu was never able to get on the field in a weak position group and finished his Sun Devil career with 12 receptions, only one during his senior year.

While there have been some junior college “misses”, Graham and his coaching staff have signed major contributors from the junior college ranks. Marion Grice and Chris Young were sensational in the maroon and gold during their two years in Tempe. Damarious Randall and Jaelen Strong are impact starters who play at an All Pac-12 level and will lead their respective units in the 2014 season. Last year, Randall and Strong had the two biggest plays in the 2013 Territorial Cup victory over the Arizona Wildcats which made our Holiday 12 Pack of Plays. De’Marieya Nelson has all the tools to be a successful h-back in this offense with both the speed and physicality, but Nelson needs to soften up his hands this upcoming season to become a more consistent pass catcher.

Many of the junior college transfers have been good depth players for the program like Steffon Martin, Darwin Rogers, Jake Sheffield, Marcus Hardison, and Antonio Longino. Martin, Rogers, and Sheffield were hard workers and contributed a lot in special teams. Certainly, with a strong 2014 season, Hardison and Longino could jump into the “major contributor” category as the defense will need both of them to step up.

The rest of the junior college signees by Todd Graham are in the “too soon to evaluate” category. Three of the four remaining signees from the 2014 recruiting class, Kweishi Brown, De’Chavon Hayes, and Eric Lauderdale are expected to get significant playing time immediately. Hayes and Lauderdale must learn the offensive playbook quickly so they can help sway defenses away from Strong. The fourth, Edmond Boateng, needs some time to work on his skills as he is still very raw having only played organized football for a couple seasons. Other junior college signings from recent classes; William McGehee, Demetrius Cherry, Eriquel Florence, Soloman Means, and Nick Kelly still have not played a down for Arizona State. Since the defense is trying to replace nine starters from last season, Cherry, Florence, and Means have chances to get on the field. Most likely McGehee, Cherry, Florence, and Means will be depth players on the second team and special team units. However, Kelly, who demonstrated great athleticism during spring practices, is penciled in as the starting center next season and with a solid season could become a “major contributor”.

The recruiting of junior college players is necessary because a percentage of the recruits will be high caliber, instant contributors like Grice, Strong, Young, and Randall. Often they are instant replacements for depth charts holes and increase the overall strength of a program. However, junior college players are just as risky as high school signees in their development as star junior college players like Agwuenu, Pennel, Stuckey, and Caldwell never make a positive impact. While the expectations are higher for these junior college transfers, the complete evaluation of the prospect is similar to high school signees in there exists a wide area of results as seen by the Arizona State signees under Todd Graham.

About Don Hansen

Don Hansen

Don is a 2003 graduate of Arizona State University where he spent four years sitting in the front rows of many ASU athletic events leading the rowdy student section. Now, Don co-hosts the "ASU Devils Den" podcast covering every detail of ASU football. Don works and resides in Gilbert, Arizona with his beautiful Sun Devil wife and their two beautiful daughters!

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